Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Alternative Thanksgiving

Don't let the title scare you too much. I'm not referring to an event where Pilgrims and Indians dress like each other or something more awful like, Tofurkey. An alternative Thanksgiving is something I want to suggest to many of you planning your Thanksgiving menu. I've ranted before about the food at Thanksgiving and how sad it is. Of course, I will rant again.
Thanksgiving is a tradition and, like many traditions, we've changed nothing. I'm not talking about drastically altering the menu so that it in no way resembles the autumn food fest catering to overeating Americans. I am merely suggesting that we upgrade the menu. Turkey is kind of bland, but you can dress it up. Cranberry sauce????? Why? I could go on with what's not working, but let's figure out how we can improve on some of the outdated dishes.
What to do with cranberry sauce? I have always been disgusted with the cranberry sauce and the lines from the can it comes in. My thought has always been to eliminate it completely. However, I saw a great use for cranberries. Check out this idea that looks to be a great utilization for appetizers. Next up is the green bean casserole. I don't hate this one as much as cranberry sauce but when everything generally comes from a can, it's tough to like it. My previous idea was to just ensure that all ingredients were fresh. Fresh green beans and fresh onions, but you still have the issue of the cream of mushroom. Same place that had the great idea for the cranberries came up with this for green beans. I would revise the mayo to be more truffle based to capture the use of mushrooms, or you could go for a wild mushroom aioli. For stuffing, I think it's best to start with a high quality bread that already has a lot of flavor, like a rosemary Focaccia. The sweet potato substance always makes me sad. The mix of sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, marshmallow, topped with some nuts seems odd and rather gross. My revision? Sweet potato gnocchi! For the sauce, you could do a brown butter sauce and mix in some cinnamon and maybe some maple syrup. If you're dead set on nuts, you could candy some and add them afterwards. My only personal change to mashed potatoes are to use Yukon Gold not Russet. I recently discovered that Yukon Gold are far better than Russet. They produce a sweeter, silkier mash. For dessert, how about some pumpkin pie? Does the texture of pumpkin pie turn you off? Try my inside out, upside down pumpkin. I've included the recipe at the bottom of this post.
It's okay to change. Don't fear mixing up the Thanksgiving menu. Sure you'll anger some moms out there, but once they realize that everything is still there, just in different form, they'll probably forgive you. . . many years later. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and please post any other ideas you might have for a different menu.

Upside-Down, Inside-Out Pumpkin Pie

  • 26 ounces canned pumpkin
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 10 ounces granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces brown sugar
  • ½ ounce corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • pinch salt
  • 20 ounces milk
  • 2 ounces heavy cream

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix pumpkin filling and eggs thoroughly. Combine all dry ingredients together and sift so there are no lumps. Add sifted dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Gradually add the milk and cream. Pour into 4-ounce bomb molds. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until set in the center.
2.Once cooled and set, using a food syringe, inject the center of the mold with whip cream.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Remember the beets that were indistinguishable from cranberry sauce in a can? You know, the "way too red" blobs or slices? I remember, as a kid, my grandfather eating beets on his salad and urging me to try them. After one taste, I quickly spit the rest out of my mouth and vowed never again. Never again would I put those weird roots in my mouth -- those roots that taste like dirt and were actually used to dye clothes back in the day. Really? Why would I seek out a food that was used to make red dresses? Beets me!! (No more beet jokes. I don't want to beet them to death. Okay, now that was the last beet joke)
Yes, beets don't have the best PR campaign. However, knowing that they could convert an anti-beetite like me, I think it's time for a resurgence. It all started in 2010, in Yountville, CA. The restaurant was Ad Hoc. The dish was a homegrown salad with golden beets (see below pic).
When I saw that beets were in the salad, I was indifferent. My wife, also an anti-beetite, took the first bite and immediately asked what the little yellow diced items were. Having never consumed golden beets, I had to assume that's what it was. They were delightful, and we couldn't get enough of them. I was shocked that something I once hated was so delicious. What else was I missing? Was the stem of broccoli now tasty (it isn't)? It's almost as if I had been lied to this whole time. My wife and I have now embraced beets, looking for ways to incorporate them into dishes and seeking them out on restaurant menus.
Is there a food that you might have been afraid of when you were younger? Perhaps it's time to take another look at it. You might be surprised at what you've been missing.

Beet Green Salad with Warm Goat Cheese and Figs (+Scallops over Grilled Corn Off the Cob)